The Toronto District School Board are coming together to vote on a variety of potential budget cuts, including a staffing plan that would remove 61 special education programs in response to a reduction in funding. In addition, the budget would also cut 215 teacher jobs, almost 100 ESL jobs, 8.5 secretaries and 5 vice-principals, the Globe and Mail reports.
This significant reduction in staffing is a direct result of the $16.5 million deficit that has accrued in recent years, mostly due to a combination of lower enrollment and changing demand. The board is estimating a small jump in elementary school enrollment of 200 students more than offset by a drop of 2,200 students in high schools.
Special education has also shown a drop in funding that has impacted the decision, with a reduction in over $22 million over the next four years. The TDSB is deciding to cut staffing mostly due to it making up 83 percent of their total operating costs, but they said that the ESL reductions specifically won’t be impacted:
“The same supports for students will continue because the number of ESL teachers who teach at multiple locations will increase,” the board said.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the special education program, where efforts will be focused to minimize the impact rather than avoid it completely:
“A reduction of 22 elementary and 14.5 secondary teaching positions is recommended to manage this funding loss with the smallest impact to students,”
Vice-president of Elementary Teachers of Toronto had this to say after hearing the news:
“With less and less funding available for special-education kids … you have less treatment centres, you have less dedicated programs. All this means is those kids are bumped further and further back into quote-unquote regular programs,” he said. “The impact is felt there, so I guess the supplemental question is, is that fair for all the other kids that are in that regular program?”
Although some small effect on students is inevitable, the TDSB hopes that these lost positions won’t affect staff too much, with the aim for most of the positions to occur via attrition or retirement. They also state that they will help to find future employment for those affected.
Ways to offset the reduction and generate more revenue will also be discussed, with a plan to rent parking spaces in key areas of downtown Toronto in partnership with the Toronto Parking Authority. If passed, this proposal is estimated to bring in around $100,000 of additional revenue for the board.